Chain Review: Uno Chicago Grill’s BBQ Chicken Pizza
A few weeks ago we told you about a new and somewhat divisive Maryland pizzeria called Coal Fire. Not only did our review generate a veritable science lesson in pizza making (thanks to some great comments by The Pizza Blogger), but it kick-started a craving in my gut for more of one of America’s most beloved foods. Wanting to try something accessible to everyone across the country, I ditched the local scene and instead recently headed to the chain restaurant Uno’s Chicago Grill.
Uno’s Chicago Grill is based on the design model of the famous Pizzeria Uno, which helped to popularize “Chicago Style” deep dish pizza in the 1940s. What we know today as Uno’s Chicago Grill actually began in 1978 when developer Aaron Spencer expanded the concept into a chain of restaurants, opening the first of his non-Chicago based Uno’s in Boston. Today, Uno Restaurant Holdings operate some 200 locations nationwide, and prides itself on an expanded menu that features everything from deep dish pizza to burgers to chops.
While it’s tough to pass up trying a deep dish pizza at a chain which specializes in the regional favorite, I instead chose to go with Uno’s BBQ Chicken Flatbread Pizza. As you may have caught on in my Coal Fire post, I’m much more a fan of crispy and thin crust pizzas variants, and the description on the Uno’s menu was just too much to resist:
Sliced chicken breast, mozzarella, red onion and parsley drizzled with citrus BBQ.
Not only that, but because I bought the pizza online and picked it up “curbside,” my two BBQ Chicken pizzas actually came out to a cool $7.50 apiece, which is comparatively lower than what my former employer offers for their industrially produced BBQ Chicken Pizzas.
That being said, I was not totally impressed. As you can see from the above photo, this is more or less a menu item which you can eat entirely on your own. As you can also see, there was absolutely no evidence whatsoever of parsley. Now I may not be an herb-junkie, but I certainly do appreciate proper seasoning, especially given the obvious constraints of cooking a pizza at a chain restaurant and in a regular old oven. Likewise, I found the BBQ sauce to be inconsistently applied, with the end pieces having virtually no sauce to speak of.
Which leads us to the crust. Thin, overloaded, and somewhat soggy, the crust on this pizza was not a crust at all; it was a moderately cooked pile of dough. Likewise, the mozzarella cheese did not seem cooked through all the way, and was somewhat rubbery and dull. Amazingly, it was still overly greasy but it lacked any compelling flavor (think of it like your high school’s daily pizza offering.) I also found there to be too much cheese, which overpowered what little red onion was featured on the pizza. The chicken was decent but only decent, and did not display the taste of a classic BBQ rub or seasoning. It also came across as burnt.
The only highlight of this pizza was the sauce. Unlike most chains which use some generic and HFCS-laden BBQ sauce, the sauce on this pizza had strong and complex citrus flavors, and actually reminded me of the orange marmalade I had on my toast for breakfast that morning. It was exceptionally sweet and displayed a glaze-like quality which may not be for everyone, but I found it an interesting play on a familiar concept.
In my opinion, a good BBQ Chicken Pizza should be about three things; Smoke, Sweetness, and Snap. (Want to see what Ryan looks for in a good BBQ Chicken Pizza? Click Here) Obviously there was no smoke involved because of the cooking method employed, and unfortunately there was no snap to the otherwise bland and overloaded crust. Still, this pizza was saved enough by the complexity of the peachy/citrus BBQ sauce, and considering its value was a decent investment given the circumstance.
Pros: Complex and Original BBQ sauce concept for a BBQ chicken pizza. Reasonable price if bought online as part of the special deal. You could probably do worse for the 1000 calories or so it cost me.
Cons: Mediocre ingredients and bland. Not seasoned very well and missing herb component that it was advertised as having. Not enough red onion. Crust seemed overloaded with ingredients, and slightly soggy with no trademark "crisp" or "snap" that you'd expect from a flatbread.
Grubbing on-the-go: 7.50/10
Price: $15.00 for Two Pizzas ('Double Deals' Takeout Special)
Overall GrubGrade: 5.50/10
More Info: Unos.com